Just a week over the last time S&P said Greece would likely default any second, it reminds us once again why we should care.
- GREECE IN ALL LIKELIHOOD WOULD QUALIFY AS A DEFAULT: CHAMBERS
- S&P'S CHAMBERS SAYS IT'S NOT GIVEN THAT GREECE DEFAULT WOULD HAVE DOMINO EFFECT IN THE EURO ZONE
Perhaps just as irrelevant if notable is that S&P basically said just that back on May 9, 2011. As for Greece, it is a given that if the country proceeds with CACs it will default. Period. And yet that is just what will happen. However a far bigger question, as we touched on yesterday, is what happens next, when Portugal decides to follow the same framework of "deleveraging" only to find that courtesy of having strong creditor protection bonds it can't? Or when the Troika figures out that due to strong negative pledges, the country's balance sheet can not be primed and thus subordinated, and thus is ineligible for secured financing. And what happens when Europe realizes that Portugal is ineligible for saving in the conventional sense? Or Spain? and so forth.
- Fears Mount That Portugal Will Need a Second Bailout (WSJ)
- EU to Have No Deadline for End of Greek Talks (Bloomberg)
- Japan economy predicted to shrink in 2011 (AFP)
- Japan’s Fiscal Pressure Intensifies as Tax-Boost Plan Insufficent: Economy (Bloomberg)
- Berlin ready to see stronger ‘firewall’ (FT)
- Obama Speech to Embrace U.S. Manufacturing Rebirth, Energy for Job Growth (Bloomberg)
- EU Hits Iran With Oil Ban, Bank Asset Freeze in Bid to Halt Nuclear Plan (Bloomberg)
- China's Oil Imports from Iran Jump (WSJ)
- Croatians vote Yes to join EU (FT)
- Japan’s $130 Billion Fund Unused in Biggest M&A Year in More Than Decade (Bloomberg)
- Buffett Blames Congress for Romney’s 15% Rate (Bloomberg)
There was a time, about 4 weeks ago, when the overnight session was assumed by default to mean lower futures just because it was "the time of Europe." Then markets took one glimpse at the ECB's balance sheets and realized it had grown by more in 6 months than the Fed's during all of QE2, and decided that the central bank will not let the continent fail, and despite how ugly the European interbank market continues to be, Europe was ironically a source of optimism, no matters how ugly the actual news. In other words, a carbon copy of January 2011. Alas, January 2011 ended, and so is the currency phase of Risk On on everything European. Which explains the shift in overnight sentiment. As Bloomberg explains, the First Word Cross Asset Dashboard shows sentiment retracing from early European session rise, with commodities, FX, equities lower after Greek debt negotiations hit snag, according to Bloomberg analyst TJ Marta. EU finance chiefs balked at private investors’ offer of 4% coupon for new Greek bonds; EU wants lower; IIF’s Charles Dallara to hold press conference at 8:30am EST; EU equity indexes lower, led by OMX -1.6%; U.S. futures moderately lower, led by S&P -0.5%; US$ outperforming on risk aversion; Commodities generally modestly to moderately lower. Finally both Portugal, and thus Spain, are once again back on the radar screen. Only this time the Greek "deleveraging" model will not apply, as Zero hedge first noted, and as MUFJ picked up on in its overnight note: "It would likely be more difficult for “Portugal to restructure its private-sector debt than for Greece,” Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ’s Lee Hardman says, without necessarily noting where he got the idea. A higher share of Portugal’s outstanding debt is governed by English law which offers greater protection to creditors vs 90% of Greek government bonds covered by local law. Finally, Hardman says that Eurozone lacks a credible firewall to ensure contagion from eventual default in Greece. That may be the case until the ECB does some gargantuan LTRO on February 29, as those in the know already expect.
As of Q3 2011, the citizens of less than 20% of the countries involved in Nielsen's Global Consumer Confidence, Concerns, and Spending Intentions Survey were on average confident in their future economic confidence. Not surprisingly, Nic Colas of ConvergEx points out, six were in Asia, the least confident were in Eastern and Peripheral European nations, and furthermore overall global consumer confidence remains 9.3% below 2H 2006 (and 6.4% below Q4 2010) readings as the global economy still has a long way to get its 'mojo' back. Colas points to the fact that 'confidence is an essential lubricant of any capitalist-based system' and one of the key challenges that worst hit Europe (and other regions and nations) face is capital markets that are assessing the long shadow of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis impact on the world's Consumer Confidence.
Remember when Europe was fixed, if only for a few weeks? Those were the times, too bad they are now officially over. EURUSD is back under 1.30 in thin volume because even as we "shockingly" find that, no, Greece did not have the "upper hand" since Greek bondholder negotiations just broke down (and that over the matter of a cash coupon delta between 3.5% and 4.0%, which implicitly means that from a bondholder IRR perspective, when taking a 15 cent EFSF Bill into consideration, the hedge fund community fully expects the country to be in default even post reorg in at about two years). But it is that "other" European country which was recently junked by S&P (causing the 10 year to soar to new records), that is now the focus point of (re)bailout concerns. Reuters reports: "The euro nudges down some 20 pips to $1.2995 in thin, illiquid trade with Tokyo dealers citing renwed fears Portugal may need a second bailout. Undermining the glow of Lisbon's achievements in reforming the country's labour market is the rapidly rising market concern that it is the next potential candidate to default in the euro zone after Greece -- a point that is fast becoming clear as Athens approaches the end of its debt restructuring talks." And here is the paradox: if Greece succeeds in persuading the ad hoc creditors to accept a 3.5% coupon, which it won't absent cramdown and CDS trigger, Portugal will immediately if not sooner proceed with the same steps. There is however, a problem. Unlike Greece, where the bulk, or over 90%, of the bonds are under Local Law, and thus have no bondholder protections (a fact about to be used by Greece to test the legal skills of asset managers who can retain the smartest lawyers in the world and generate par recoveries on their bonds in due course), in a generic Portuguese Euro Medium Term note Programme prospectus we find the following...
There are consequences to this policy.
10 Good And Bad Things About The Economy And Rosenberg On Whether This Isn't Still Just A Modern Day DepressionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/23/2012 17:17 -0400
Two things of note in today's Rosie piece. On one hand he breaks out the 10 good and bad things that investors are factoring, and while focusing on the positive, and completely ignoring the negative, are pushing the market to its best start since 1997. As Rosie says: "The equity market has gotten off to its best start in a good 15 years and being led by the deep cyclicals (materials, homebuilders, semiconductors) and financials — last year's woeful laggards (the 50 worst performing stocks in 2011 are up over 10% so far this year; the 50 best are up a mere 2%). Bonds are off to their worst start since 2003 with the 10-year note yield back up to 2%. The S&P 500 is now up 20% from the early October low and just 3.5% away from the April 2011 recovery high (in fact, in euro terms, it has rallied 30% and at its best level since 2007)." Is there anything more to this than precisely the same short-covering spree we saw both in 2010 and 2011? Not really: "This still smacks of a classic short-covering rally as opposed to a broad asset- allocation shift, but there is no doubt that there is plenty of cash on the sidelines and if it gets put to use, this rally could be extended. This by no means suggests a shift in my fundamental views, and keep in mind that we went into 2011 with a similar level of euphoria and hope in place and the uptrend lasted through April before the trap door opened. Remember too that the acute problems in the housing and mortgage market began in early 2007 and yet the equity market did not really appreciate or understand the severity of the situation until we were into October of that year and even then the consensus was one of a 'soft landing'." Finally, Rosie steps back from the noise and focuses on the forest, asking the rhetorical question: "Isn't this still a "modern day depression?" - his answer, and ours - "sure it is."
With less than three months left until the Greek D-Day, and just over one month until the next 3-year LTRO, which will be the ECB's final chance to firewall off its banks with sufficient liquidity and brace for the worst if Greece fails to reach a consensual debt reducing exchange offer (which our colleagues in the German press don't think will be nearly enough), we finally get a glimpse of how the super broke Mario brothers really feel. According to a report in the German Spiegel, the ink is not even yet dry on the latest completely toothless EU Fiscal Draft (which will allow the €500 billion European Stability Mechanism to be enacted) and already we get the world's most insolvent hedge fund, pardon central bank, and Europe's biggest debtor demanding for more. "Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi both support enlarging the capacity of Europe’s permanent financial rescue mechanism, Der Spiegel reported, without saying where it got the information. The news magazine said Monti is pushing for the European Stability Mechanism’s capacity to be doubled to 1 trillion euros ($1.29 trillion), and had made the suggestion to the German government. Der Spiegel added that Draghi supports the view that unused funds from Europe’s temporary rescue fund should be added to the ESM’s firepower when it comes into force." Well good thing the ECB is not printing money or else one would get the impression that the system is getting flooded with trillions of excess cash. It also also great that the next LTRO will not be up to €10 trillion, as first reported here, and as was finally noted by the German press.
Yesterday, Reuters' blogger Felix Salmon in a well-written if somewhat verbose essay, makes the argument that "Greece has the upper hand" in its ongoing negotiations with the ad hoc and official group of creditors. It would be a great analysis if it wasn't for one minor detail. It is wrong. And while that in itself is hardly newsworthy, the fact that, as usual, its conclusion is built upon others' primary research and analysis, including that of the Wall Street Journal, merely reinforces the fact that there is little understanding in the mainstream media of what is actually going on behind the scenes in the Greek negotiations, and thus a comprehension of how prepack (for now) bankruptcy processes operate. Furthermore, since the Greek "case study" will have dramatic implications for not only other instances of sovereign default, many of which are already lining up especially in Europe, but for the sovereign bond market in general, this may be a good time to explain why not only does Greece not have the upper hand, but why an adverse outcome from the 11th hour discussions between the IIF, the ad hoc creditors, Greece, and the Troika, would have monumental consequences for the entire bond market in general.
So it looks like we should get an announcement sometime today about the proposed Greek PSI deal. Yes, proposed, not finalized. Asides from the obvious fact that there will be limited or no documentation for the deal, we still have no clue who has agreed to what. As far as we can tell, no one has given the IIF negotiators any binding power. We think this will be a relatively small portion of bondholders and then the real game begins. If the terms of the deal being leaked are true, it will be extremely interesting to see what other countries do. Why should Portugal or Hungary bother with painful steps to reduce debt when the alternative is spend more, reduce debt via restructuring, and get lower rates on that reduced debt?
Nowhere in S&P’s statement about “global economic and financial crisis”, did it clarify that sovereigns were hit due to backing their largest national banks (and international, US ones) which engaged in half a decade of leveraged speculation. But here’s how it worked: 1) Big banks funneled speculative capital, and their own, into local areas, using real estate and other collateral as fodder for securitized deals with derivative touches. 2) They lost money on these bets, and on the borrowing incurred to leverage them. 3) The losses ate their capital. 4) The capital markets soured against them in mutual bank distrust so they couldn’t raise more money to cover their bets as before. 5) So, their borrowing costs rose which made it more difficult for them to back their bets or purchase their own government’s debt. 6) This decreased demand for government debt, which drove up the cost of that debt, which transformed into additional country expenses. 7) Countries had to turn to bailouts to keep banks happy and plush with enough capital. 8) In return for bailouts and cheap lending, governments sacrificed citizens. 9) As citizens lost jobs and countries lost assets to subsidize the international speculation wave, their economies weakened further. 10) S&P (and every political leader) downplayed this chain of events.... The die has been cast. Central entities like the Fed, ECB, and IMF perpetuate strategies that further undermine economies, through emergency loan facilities and bailouts, with rating agency downgrades spurring them on. Governments attempt to raise money at harsher terms PLUS repay the bailouts that caused those terms to be higher. Banks hoard cheap money which doesn’t help populations, exacerbating the damaging economic effects. Unfortunately, this won't end any time soon.
The rolling euphoria continues. European sovereigns have performed well again today with a significant surge into the close (helped earlier by ECB buying and optically successful auctions). Italian 10Y is trading back at 450bps over Bunds (one-month tights) and European banks ripped higher in equity and credit markets (as belief in capital raising plans takes hold). As we noted earlier, GGBs have been underperforming all week but equities and credit seem unstoppable here. USDJPY has crumbled in the last hour or so (around the same time as sovereign spreads started to accelerate their compression) and Treasuries (and Bunds) are very significantly underperforming (with the former now 13bps higher in 30Y for the week). While the dollar continues to weaken (and EUR strengthen back over 1.29) commodities are 'oddly' rolling over with Copper, Oil, Gold, and Silver all well off their earlier highs as Europe closes.
The Greek PSI is once again (still) hitting the headlines. Here is what we think the most likely scenario is (80% likelihood). Some form of an agreement will be announced. The IIF will announce that the “creditor committee has agreed in principle to a plan.” That plan will need to be “formalized” and final agreement from the individual institutions on the committee and those that weren’t part of the committee will need to be obtained. The headline will sound good, but will leave a month or so for details to come out. In the meantime every European and EU leader (or employee) with a press contact will say what a great deal it is. That it confirms that Europe is on the path of progress and that they are doing what they committed to at their summits. That will be the hype that will drive the market higher (or in fact has already done so). However, the reality (as we noted earlier in Einhorn's market madness chart) is that this still leaves hedge funds to acquiesce (unlikely) and furthermore focus will switch to Greece's actual debt sustaianability post-default (yes the d-word) and as we are seeing recently, Portugal will come into very sharp focus. If they cannot bribe and blackmail and threaten their way into something they call PSI, then we will see Greece stop making payments, and then the markets will get very ugly in a hurry.
The world's biggest primary silver miner, Fresnillo, had flat silver production in 2011. Output is only expected to remain stable in 2012. African Barrick Gold said on Wednesday fourth quarter gold production fell 11% and missed its annual production targets. Despite price rises seen in 2011, gold and silver mining is remaining static contrary to claims by gold bears that higher prices would lead to increased production and therefore increased supply. Geological constraints may be impacting mining companies ability to increase production of the precious metals. Standard Bank has said it lowered its average 2012 gold price forecast by 6 percent to $1,780 an ounce, but continues to expect prices of the precious metal to touch new highs in the latter half of this year. "We maintain that gold will reach new highs this year but, given our dollar view, we believe that these highs will be reached only in the second half of 2012," the analyst said in a note. Standard Bank expects the U.S. dollar to gain strength, especially against the euro, over the next quarter. A few other banks have recently lowered price forecasts for gold, including ANZ and Credit Suisse – however the majority remain bullish on gold’s outlook for 2012.
- Here we go again: IMF Said to Seek $1 Trillion Resource-Boost Amid Euro Crisis (Bloomberg)
- China said to Tell banks to Restrict Lending as Local Officials Seek Funds (Bloomberg)
- EU to Take Legal Action Against Hungary (FT)
- Portugal Yields Fall in Auction of Short-Term Debt (Reuters)
- US Natural Gas Prices at 10-Year Low as Warm Weather Weakens Demand (Reuters)
- German Yield Falls in Auction of 2-Year Bonds (Reuters)
- World Bank Slashes Global GDP Forecasts, Outlook Grim (Reuters)
- Why the Super-Marios Need Help (Martin Wolf) (FT)
- Chinese Vice Premier Stresses Government Role in Improving People's Livelihoods (Xinhua)